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Preaching Pride

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Let's imagine for a minute that you -- a "homosexual?" a "lesbian?" a "transgender?" a "queer?" -- didn't live in the United States. Let's say you lived in -- take your pick -- "Uganda, Zimbabwe, Jamaica, El Salvador and Latin America in particular." Those are the countries and areas of the world specifically designated in Amnesty International's latest report about "violent persecution of homosexuals" around the globe.

It's long been known and expected that you might die for your sexual preference anywhere in the Middle East and, for that matter, all over China and what we call "Asia."

But the news about Latin America is something of a surprise, given that Rio de Janeiro and Buenos Aires are at the top of "A-List" cities that gay boys can go to for... gay-boy things.

It's something we should all be thinking about on Pride Day. In Amnesty's reckoning, "homophobia" has reached "epidemic levels" around the world.

"Lesbian and gay people who form or join organizations, be they political or social, are being violently persecuted in many parts of the world where before they might have been unnoticed," writes Vanessa Baird in her new book, Sex, Love and Homophobia, published under Amnesty's imprint.

"And this is not all just a small group of nutters in the mid-West" of America, she adds. Gay men and women are being murdered everywhere -- some through force of law, but most just out of hatred, the kind of thing we in Burlington can encounter each time we leave the house and try to get out of the way of big men with tiny dicks. For women, it's that much worse. If it weren't for the laws we have here, we'd all be executed just for being.

Now, on our Pride Day, comes Bishop Gene Robinson of New Hampshire -- "the first openly gay Episcopal Bishop," etc. -- preaching at St. Paul's Cathedral this Saturday at 3:30 in the afternoon.

This should be a big thing for us, a big thing for our Pride. And, indeed, anyone who comes out for it can go and hear him, provided there are enough seats left over from the 250 already reserved for St. Paul's parishioners in their "summer season," and provided the "A-List" of gay men in Vermont doesn't take the rest for itself.

Gene Robinson is a very courageous man, a hero of our time, whose confirmation as Bishop of New Hampshire last year became not just a local or a national but an international issue. Because of his appointment, millions of Christians of the Anglican faith confronted the prospect of cutting themselves off from the Church of England, the original Protestants.

Why? Because Gene Robinson sleeps at night with a man he has loved for many years, and with whom he makes exactly the kind of loving and devoted home all Christians are charged to make as a service to God. It isn't possible to reconcile Christ with the hateful accusations directed against Robinson -- and if, as now, he declares that he will "give no interviews," it's because he has, and has always had, something larger to say.

"I have no shred of doubt that I am loved beyond my wildest imagining," Robinson says. At his confirmation last year he added, "What a journey... I am so proud of you and I am so proud to be your bishop."

This is what we all need to hear right now -- men and women who will stand tall for themselves and their lives and their beliefs. I think this is the only message that "Pride" can have. I wish that Robinson would come out of St. Paul's and give us all an extra jolt, but I know why he doesn't. We'll find strength or we won't -- it doesn't depend on a church's sanction.

As it happens, I went to 135 Pearl the other night -- yes, an old queer who used to go there when it was just a pick-up bar. To my amazement, I found nothing among the crowd but hope and beauty. Even with pen poised, saying, "Well, I'm doing this story for Seven Days..." they all laughed and kissed me on the head and declared themselves ready to answer any question I had. And what was the question?

"Will you be you going to Pride on Saturday?"

And the answer was, "Yes." All of them -- gay, straight, bi, queer. All of them.

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